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Liz Cheney to Republicans: Choose between the Constitution or Trump

Cheney spoke at the Ronald Reagan Library about what the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 has learned

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Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., delivers her “Time for Choosing” speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., vice chairwoman of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, delivers her “Time for Choosing” speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif. The speech is part of a series focusing on the conservative movement to address critical questions facing the future of the Republican Party.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., had a message for her fellow Republicans during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday: It’s either the Constitution or former President Donald Trump — pick one.

“The reality that we face today as Republicans as we think about the choice in front of us, we have to choose, because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said.

Cheney characterized Trump’s failed attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power as existential to U.S. democracy.

“Donald Trump attempted to overturn the presidential election. He attempted to stay in office and prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power,” Cheney said. “He summoned a mob to march, he knew they were armed on Jan. 6. He knew they were angry, and he directed the violent mob to march on the Capitol in order to delay or prevent completely the counting of electoral votes. He attempted to go there with them, and when the violence was underway, he refused to take action to tell the rioters to leave. Instead he incited further violence by tweeting that the vice president, Mike Pence, was a coward. He said, ‘Mike deserves it,’ and he didn’t want to do anything in response to the ‘hang Mike Pence’ chants.

Cheney, vice chairwoman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, said the committee’s investigation found Trump’s efforts were “even more chilling and more threatening than we could have imagined.”

Are Republicans listening?

Much of Cheney’s intended Republican audience isn’t tuned into her bipartisan committee’s hearings, however. A CBS News-YouGov poll released Sunday found 40% of Republicans say they’re not paying any attention to the hearing, while just 6% said they’re paying a lot of attention and 19% said they’re paying some attention.

Cheney said the committee’s findings might be difficult for Republicans to accept.

“It’s undeniable. It’s also painful for Republicans to accept,” she said.

Cheney emphasized her conservative beliefs during her remarks and criticized Biden administration policies for creating significant challenges.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I believe deeply in the policies of limited government, of low taxes, of a strong national defense. I believe the family is the center of our communities and of our lives and I believe those are the right policies for our nation,” Cheney said.

“But I also know at this moment we are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before, and that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic,” she said.

Trump’s Republican allies

Cheney said Trump was aided “by Republican leaders and elected officials who made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.”

During a recent hearing, former Trump staffers the committee interviewed said Republicans Reps. Andy Biggs, of Arizona, Mo Brooks, of Alabama, Louie Gohmert, of Texas, Matt Gaetz, of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Green, of Georgia, and Scott Perry, of Pennsylvania, asked for pardons for their role in Trump’s efforts.

There are also more than 100 Republican primary winners so far this year who falsely claim the election was stolen, according to a June 14 Washington Post review, and election denialism remains an issue in forthcoming primary campaigns.

Cheney criticized members of her party, including those hoping to ignore the hearings, and said they had a choice to make.

“Now some in my party are embracing former President Trump, and even after all we’ve seen they’re enabling his lies,” she said. “Many others are urging we not confront Donald Trump, that we look away, and that is certainly the easier path.”

To argue that the threat posed by Trump can be ignored, Cheney said, is to cast aside one’s responsibility to perpetuate the republic.

“My fellow Americans, we stand at the edge of an abyss and we must pull back,” she said.